September 15, 1998 12:30 PM PDT

Microsoft COO speaks to investors

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SAN FRANCISCO--Microsoft chief operating officer Bob Herbold today discussed pending product upgrades and the software giant's ongoing antitrust battle against government regulators during an investment conference here.

Speaking at the NationsBanc Montgomery Securities investment conference, Herbold said Redmond was not surprised by yesterday's court ruling, in which Microsoft's request to dismiss a landmark antitrust lawsuit brought by the Justice Department and 20 state attorney generals was denied by federal judge Thomas Penfield Jackson. The decision sets in motion a trial that has been rescheduled for October 15.

"From Microsoft's perspective, Judge Jackson has given the impression he is anxious to move ahead," Herbold said.

Robert McGreevey, vice president of Citibank Global Asset Management's large-cap growth team, said Microsoft's recent battles with the DOJ have not affected his firm's decision to invest in the company.

"We have not changed our position because the scope of the DOJ investigation has been limited to specific practices by Microsoft," McGreevey said, pointing out that the Citibank Global Asset Management fund, with $4 billion in assets in mutual funds and institutional investor accounts, holds Microsoft as its first- and second-largest investment in some of its funds. "If they lose this current lawsuit, it will not go to the heart of their business."

During his presentation, Herbold also discussed Microsoft's road ahead in its effort to get out the final version of its SQL Server Release 7.0 enterprise edition, its Office 2000 upgrade, and its major revision to the Windows NT 5.0 operating system.

"There may or may not be another beta [for NT 5.0]," Herbold said, maintaining that users will determine when the software giant will release its major NT workstation and server upgrade. Windows NT 5.0, which initially was expected to ship last summer, has faced numerous delays.

Investors attending a private session with Herbold following his presentation, however, said the executive indicated that there is a strong likelihood NT is on schedule for a third beta in mid-1999.

A Microsoft spokeswoman, however, said the software giant has not released any dates for when it will conduct a third beta of Windows NT before the final version is released.

Last week, Microsoft president Steve Ballmer told attendees at a developer's conference in Las Vegas that the final version of the Windows NT 5.0 operating system is still roughly 8 to 12 months away.

Frederick Linkner, a research analyst with Husic Capital Management, said Herbold told investors today that beta results on SQL Server have been good and that the product is expected to ship by the end of the year.

Analysts previously had been concerned that SQL 7.0 would not be able to scale up in order to handle ERP systems and the large transactions attendant to them.

"It's Microsoft's attempt to go after [database maker] Oracle, and it sounds like they have addressed the scalability issues," Linkner said.

Microsoft, meanwhile, is focusing on its total cost of ownership and collaboration in designing its Office 2000, Herbold said. The company expects to ship that product by the end of the year.

 

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